Liverpool’s Luis Diaz made the difference once again in their Champions League semi-final against Villarreal, coming from the bench at half-time to help turn a 2-0 deficit into a 2-3 victory. And you could see what it meant to the Colombian as he welled up after the game.
Given the ease with which they had won the first leg of the semi at Anfield, most observers expected Jurgen Klopp’s Reds to have a fairly straightforward night’s work as they visited the Estadio de la Ceramica.
It proved anything but.
Liverpool fell behind early on to a Boulaye Dia goal converted from close range and Francis Coquelin scored another before the break to bring things level on aggregate. Had Andy Robertson not made a vital block with his face, it could have been even worse.
But at half-time Klopp withdrew the ineffective Diogo Jota and introduced Luis Diaz, and the Colombian sauce merchant helped turn the game on its head.
First, Fabinho fired home under the legs of Geronimo Rulli from a tight angle to give Liverpool an aggregate lead. Diaz then added a cushion five minutes later, powering a textbook header into the ground after a delicious Trent Alexander-Arnold cross. Finally, Sadio Mane gave Liverpool the win on the night with a breakaway goal.
Much of the credit, however, belonged to Diaz, who changed the game with his directness and dribbling, continuing the incredible impact he’s had since arriving from Porto in January.
After the game, Diaz was visibly emotional, appearing to well up while perhaps reflecting on just how far he’s come from his days back in his hometown of Barrancas.
Before the game, Klopp had explained away Diaz’s absence from the starting line-up by saying: “It is rotation but in specific moments, we want specific skillsets in a position. That’s why we decided. That’s it.”
By full-time, he may well have changed his tune about which skillsets were required.
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) May 3, 2022